D-11 fills Midland principal gap
Colbert brings recent IB background, 16 years in education to Westside elementary; district leaders stress school’s importance
Midland Elementary has a new principal. Hired as a one-year interim at a special meeting of the District 11 Board of Education last week, Robyn Colbert has since
met with parents and staff and said she is looking forward to the school year.
"I love it," she said of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program that makes Midland unique as D-11's only IB-accredited elementary. "When this opened up, I called Shirley [Stevens, who oversees the district's elementary schools]."
She brings recent IB background to the position, having taken three training classes since 2006, helped guide Falcon District 49's Meridian Ranch Elemen-tary toward an IB curriculum last year and continued to attend monthly meetings of a statewide IB organization that meets in Denver. She said she values IB because it is "an interactive way to draw students in and learn about content."
Overall, she has 16 years of educational experience - with a particular teaching focus on computers and at-risk students - preceded by employment as a parole officer. "I feel that's a good mix, in a nice way," she told parents, who laughed appreciatively at the juxtaposition.
Colbert's interim status reflects the relatively hasty nature of her hiring. Board President Tami Hasling has previously explained that the district had scant time for a full search after she and other board members removed former principal Barbara Bishop, who had led Midland to IB accreditation during her eight-year tenure, a week before school ended in May. The reasons for the board's action have not been revealed, and Bishop - the wife of D-11 Superinten-dent Terry Bishop - has declined interview requests.
Deputy Superintendent Mary Thurman said a full hiring process will occur next spring, and Colbert will be welcome to apply. The district wants IB to continue at the school, she and Stevens emphasized.
The new principal inherits a stable teaching core at Midland, where the only departures from 2007-08 are two who retired.
The school has had recent success in student academic testing. In Colorado Student Assess-ment Program (CSAP) scores from 2006, the school moved into the "high" status for the first time. The 2007 scores will be released Aug. 1, Stevens said.
A concern for Midland is enrollment, which Steven said has dropped (exact amount unavailable) since a high in the upper 100s a couple of years ago. Colbert said she plans to go out into the neighborhood and "knock on doors" in hopes of bringing back students from the attendance area.
She pledged to parents that she would be a hard-working principal -among the first staff members to arrive every day and the last to leave. She plans to be a "visible" principal, including spending time in classrooms so she can "participate with the kids," build relationships with teachers and get a better feel for how the IB program is working. To improve academic levels, she said in an interview she wants to develop a data-geared approach in which each student's progress in different subjects areas is regularly assessed in detail.
Colbert encouraged parents to step forward as volunteers. She promised to be open and fair with everyone. "What you see is what you get," she said. "It's not fluff and bluff."
In an interview, Colbert answered questions about her immediate educational history. Midland is her fourth school since 2005. She explained that from 2000 to 2005 she had taught or administrated in D-11, but resigned for "philosophical" reasons in '05 after a year as principal at the Life Skills Charter School. Although she liked District 11, she took an opportunity at that point to become an assistant principal at District 49's Sand Creek High School and then to take over Meridian at the start of '07. She said her decision to leave that school after '07-08 was simply a desire to get back to D-11, which she calls "home."
Thurman said she was happy to see a principal who appeared "energized" about her position, because that should work out well for the students. "She appears very personable," Thurman said. "I believe she can build a strong team at Midland."
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